website statistics I Married a Communist - PDF Books Online
Hot Best Seller

I Married a Communist

Availability: Ready to download

I Married a Communist is the story of the rise and fall of Ira Ringold, a big American roughneck who begins life as a teenage ditch-digger in 1930s Newark, becomes a big-time 1940s radio star, and is destroyed, as both a performer and a man, in the McCarthy witchhunt of the 1950s. In his heyday as a star—and as a zealous, bullying supporter of "progressive" political causes I Married a Communist is the story of the rise and fall of Ira Ringold, a big American roughneck who begins life as a teenage ditch-digger in 1930s Newark, becomes a big-time 1940s radio star, and is destroyed, as both a performer and a man, in the McCarthy witchhunt of the 1950s. In his heyday as a star—and as a zealous, bullying supporter of "progressive" political causes—Ira marries Hollywood's beloved silent-film star, Eve Frame. Their glamorous honeymoon in her Manhattan townhouse is shortlived, however, and it is the publication of Eve's scandalous bestselling exposé that identifies him as "an American taking his orders from Moscow." In this story of cruelty, betrayal, and revenge spilling over into the public arena from their origins in Ira's turbulent personal life, Philip Roth—who Commonweal calls the "master chronicler of the American twentieth century—has written a brilliant fictional portrayal of that treacherous postwar epoch when the anti-Communist fever not only infected national politics but traumatized the intimate, innermost lives of friends and families, husbands and wives, parents and children.


Compare

I Married a Communist is the story of the rise and fall of Ira Ringold, a big American roughneck who begins life as a teenage ditch-digger in 1930s Newark, becomes a big-time 1940s radio star, and is destroyed, as both a performer and a man, in the McCarthy witchhunt of the 1950s. In his heyday as a star—and as a zealous, bullying supporter of "progressive" political causes I Married a Communist is the story of the rise and fall of Ira Ringold, a big American roughneck who begins life as a teenage ditch-digger in 1930s Newark, becomes a big-time 1940s radio star, and is destroyed, as both a performer and a man, in the McCarthy witchhunt of the 1950s. In his heyday as a star—and as a zealous, bullying supporter of "progressive" political causes—Ira marries Hollywood's beloved silent-film star, Eve Frame. Their glamorous honeymoon in her Manhattan townhouse is shortlived, however, and it is the publication of Eve's scandalous bestselling exposé that identifies him as "an American taking his orders from Moscow." In this story of cruelty, betrayal, and revenge spilling over into the public arena from their origins in Ira's turbulent personal life, Philip Roth—who Commonweal calls the "master chronicler of the American twentieth century—has written a brilliant fictional portrayal of that treacherous postwar epoch when the anti-Communist fever not only infected national politics but traumatized the intimate, innermost lives of friends and families, husbands and wives, parents and children.

30 review for I Married a Communist

  1. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    In this second book in the the American Trilogy, the author Philip Roth is present as his alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, in this fictional biography of Ira Ringold, husband to a sophisticated but fading Hollywood star, Eve Frame. Ira Ringold was a ditchdigger in the 1930s in Newark, a stevedore, a star presenter of a radio show called "The Free and the Brave" in the 1940s, and a devoted Stalinist in the McCarthy era of the 1950s, after his service in the Second World War. Ira's brother, Murray Rin In this second book in the the American Trilogy, the author Philip Roth is present as his alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, in this fictional biography of Ira Ringold, husband to a sophisticated but fading Hollywood star, Eve Frame. Ira Ringold was a ditchdigger in the 1930s in Newark, a stevedore, a star presenter of a radio show called "The Free and the Brave" in the 1940s, and a devoted Stalinist in the McCarthy era of the 1950s, after his service in the Second World War. Ira's brother, Murray Ringold, is Nathan Zuckerman's ninety-year-old former highschool teacher who visits Nathan in the Berkshire woods. He lives alone and welcomes the company of the old gentleman. Ira becomes the topic of their conversations in which Nathan is the observer, listening to Murray's retelling of his brother's life story. Nathan reminisce in between, about Ira, the man who acted as father figure to the younger Nathan. The now long-dead Ira Ringold constantly had to re-invent himself. Ira's instant fall from grace happened when his troubled wife published her autobiography. "I married a Communist" was a scandalous bestseller in which she exposed Ira and destroyed him. The author Philip Roth also uses his alter ego Nathan Zuckerman to express his own feelings about Claire Bloom's (his ex-wive's) autobiography Leaving a Doll's House. The aftermath is spent raging and ranting and rifting, boiling over into revenge. The novel is sectioned to present memories, digressions and analysis of the raw bitterness behind betrayal, counter betrayal and the interplay between anger and sanity. It is a war of emotions in which revenge is used as a perpetual weapon. Pure hatred serves as the high octane booster. An almost misogynistic melancholy befalls all women. Murray Ringold, the Jewish war hero and intellectual, in his passion to explain, to clarify, and to understand, spends several days in the company of Nathan. In monologue after monologue, Murray dissects Ira's life throughout the 326 pages of the book. Ira Ringold was a bullish, rough-neck Jewish giant, an antihero in the Age of McCarthyism and a victim of his own fall into insanity and disgrace and ultimate demise. Philip Roth, alias Nathan Zuckerman had never before known anyone whose life was so intimately circumscribed by so much American history." He never knew "anyone so immersed in his moment or so defined by it. Or tyrannized by it, so much its avenger and its victim and its tool.The story is about anger, anger, anger. A challenging word dump of monologues and philosophical journeys through the optimism of youth, the pessimism of old age and mortality. The biographical fictional tale has Ira Ringold as a distant main character, while its actual main purpose is to serve as a reaction to his ex-wives allegations against him in her autobiography. It is a story within a story. Eve's memoir depicts Ira as a Machiavellian Communist, a vicious man of enormous cunning who nearly ruined my life, my career and the life of my beloved child; Claire Bloom's memoir ("Leaving a Doll's House") depicted Philip Roth as a game-playing Machiavellian strategist driven by a deep and irrepressible rage and a profound distrust of the sexual power of women. Ms. Bloom depicted Mr. Roth as a possessive and narcissistic lover who refused to live under the same roof with her daughter. In this fictional biography, Philip Roth has the upper hand. Using his ex wife as the tragic fictional character Eve, he secures the character for posterity as a zealot; a malicious, scheming woman, while he remains a manly giant in real life. He depicts the fictional Eve as a vengeful and self-deluding woman in thrall to her impossible daughter from an earlier marriage. Ms. Bloom, on the other hand, writing her autobiography, feeds the real-life gossipmongers of the media in one compact, but Hollywood-style forgettable blow. Philip Roth's real persona on the other hand, remains gentlemanly intact, while destroying his ex-wife as a character in a novel. Brilliant move. A true Machiavellian strategist, perhaps? Philip Roth is the winner of the 1960's National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize as well as the Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement in fiction. He is undoubtedly a master of the word craft and deserves all the accolades. For me as a common reader, and not as a critic, it was an exhausting read, both emotionally as well as intellectually. The high energy behind the words and the fractured intensity of the narrative relentlessly hammered away at the symbiosis between the psyche and the soma. The application of unadulterated aggression left the spirit lifeless and destroyed. It might be a brilliant piece of word art, but the moral behind this tragic life story is a killer. For me at least. I was wondering if the epitaph on the poor soul's gravestone might read What are you looking at!? What a sad waste of life, if spent so angry and filled with a constant need for revenge. It took me almost three months to get through this melodrama. Brutal, brilliant, but ENOUGH! The American Trilogy: American Pastoral #1; I Married a Communist #2; The Human Stain #3 .

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    A truly important and courageous book about the hidden war of McCarthy during the 50s. Devastating, it is still all too relevant today. I will not go into the story details in order to avoid spoilers but I will say the following: 1/ Philip Roth is an amazing writer and this book is a perfect and beautiful sequel of sorts to American Pastoral 2/ Nathan Zuckerman is an amazing narrator and his personal involvement with Ira and Murray Ringold is a wonderful narrative device 3/ The story of anti-Semiti A truly important and courageous book about the hidden war of McCarthy during the 50s. Devastating, it is still all too relevant today. I will not go into the story details in order to avoid spoilers but I will say the following: 1/ Philip Roth is an amazing writer and this book is a perfect and beautiful sequel of sorts to American Pastoral 2/ Nathan Zuckerman is an amazing narrator and his personal involvement with Ira and Murray Ringold is a wonderful narrative device 3/ The story of anti-Semitism (especially by self-hating Jews like the Eve Frame character) is unfortunately still relevant today 4/ The hate-mongering of self-serving scum like Katrina and Brydon Grant are every bit as stomach-turning and disgusting as Trump and his ilk. Unfortunately, nothing has changed there in how to motivate the masses through scapegoating and rabble-rousing Despite not typically being ranked as one of the Top 5 Roth books, I think this one is underrated and deserves a place in the Roth "must" canon. Definitely read it between American Pastoral and The Human Stain! RIP (1933-2018). One of America's literary giants has left us.

  3. 4 out of 5

    William2

    This is not Philip Roth’s best book. It’s around-the-bend melodramatic and over the top voluble in the way old movies can be. Like, say, “His Girl Friday” (1940) with Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant. I can’t say for sure; I’m speculating, but maybe this was Roth’s way of giving his novel greater period resonance. Perhaps he wanted to instill it with that sort of madcap, naive-yet-slick-bustling-postwar-New York City air so prevalent in Hollywood movies of the 1940s. (N.B. The masterpieces I recom This is not Philip Roth’s best book. It’s around-the-bend melodramatic and over the top voluble in the way old movies can be. Like, say, “His Girl Friday” (1940) with Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant. I can’t say for sure; I’m speculating, but maybe this was Roth’s way of giving his novel greater period resonance. Perhaps he wanted to instill it with that sort of madcap, naive-yet-slick-bustling-postwar-New York City air so prevalent in Hollywood movies of the 1940s. (N.B. The masterpieces I recommend for first time readers of Philip Roth are American Pastoral, The Human Stain, The Ghostwriter, Patrimony and The Counterlife to mention a few.) Yet I Married a Communist remains important because it animates a period of history when everyone was drunk on Utopia. That is, when half the world was convinced of the promise of Communism. We know now that the revolution was a fraud. Lenin was a con man and a serial murderer. Stalin out did him by 50,000,000 souls. It’s all there in Richard Pipes many books, as well as multiple works by Orlando Figes, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Robert Conquest, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, et al. Yet even a Roth dud is infinitely better that most novels. This one is interesting in the way The Plot Against America was interesting. Though in that later book Roth used a counter-factual foundation—the anti Semitic aviator Charles Lindbergh is elected president of the USA on an isolationist platform that tragically keeps America out of World War II—whereas here in I Married A Communist he shows the same ability to give us characters caught in the mill of history though without the counter-factual underpinnings. This novel is built around what happened between 1950 and 1954 when Senator Joseph McCarthy started subpoenaing people to appear before HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee, to get them to reveal their Communist party affiliation and that of their friends. This was a terrible fascistic time in American history when limits on personal privacy were contravened by the state and people’s lives were ruined as a consequence. Yet unlike recent declarations by a person who shall not be named, this really was a witch hunt and it ruined the lives and livelihoods not just of individuals but of entire families. My favorite thing about the novel is the vivid picture it paints of postwar Jewish life. As always on this subject Roth is hilarious and informing. My problem is I find the main character dull. Ira Ringold, the title Communist. For all of the book’s strengths, Ira’s a crashing bore. He rants and raves about the beauty of USSR, but like most boosters in those days he doesn’t have a clue. Stalin’s show trials occurred in the mid-1930s, but does Ira know anything about that? Collectivization and Dekulakization, which starved the Russian peasantry to death in their tens of millions? The Gulag? He’s likable in many ways, Ira. He’s sincere, but in the end he’s just an ideologue. Now, you may argue, but how can any character be ahistorical in realist fiction? He can only know what he knows when its time for him to know it. True, many people were fooled by the Soviet Union well into the 1970s. But that fact doesn’t in any way relieve the reader of the tediousness of Ira’s obsession. Stopped reading at page 270 of 323. The narrative simply became too repetitious.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    "Of course it should not be too surprising to find out that your life story has included an event, something important, that you have known nothing about--your life story is in and of itself something that you know very little about"—Nathan Zuckerman "If it weren’t for mistakes I would still be home sitting on the front stoop"—Zuckerman I Married a Communist is the follow-up to American Pastoral, in the middle of a trilogy, set partly in Newark and partly in Chicago, read mainly because I had in t "Of course it should not be too surprising to find out that your life story has included an event, something important, that you have known nothing about--your life story is in and of itself something that you know very little about"—Nathan Zuckerman "If it weren’t for mistakes I would still be home sitting on the front stoop"—Zuckerman I Married a Communist is the follow-up to American Pastoral, in the middle of a trilogy, set partly in Newark and partly in Chicago, read mainly because I had in the last year read American Pastoral, but also because it is timely now, because of the McCarthy connections, the rising fascism of the fifties understand in the context of present events, the steady parade of clown cars of revenge and betrayal and the irrelevance of facts. But there is also the wonderful muscular masculine passionate Roth language and the intense and carefully drawn characters. Not quite as good as American Pastoral, maybe, but it has flashes of that brilliance. This is a sort of read-aloud book because it is a story largely being told in soliloquy fashion by 90-year-old Murray about his blacklisted brother Ira to Nathan Zuckerman, a novelist stand-in for Roth himself. Murray is one of Nathan’s former English teachers, one who helped shape him as a writer. And as Nathan (Roth) says, reflecting on his career as writer, "Occasionally now, looking back, I think of my life as one long speech I've been listening to. . . The book of my life is a book of voices. . . When I ask myself how I arrived at where I am, the answer surprises me: 'Listening' . . . was I, from the beginning, just an ear in search of a word?"—Zuckerman This is one complex book, dealing with a particular period of history, post WWII, and getting at issues of betrayal and revenge on at least three basic levels; 1) nationally, as McCarthy and others in the early fifties in the USA blacklisted “Communists,” some of whom were actual Communist party members, though many of those accused were Jews, blacks, gay, and so on, liberals, that they didn’t like personally or politically. It was an ugly American moment, a chance for all of the country to turn in their neighbors to the House Un-American Committee for being “unpatriotically” critical of American policies and values; 2) central character Ira’s wife Eve turns him in to that committee, knowing he was once a sort of angry Communist sympathizer, after learning Ira has hit on his step-daughter Sylphid’s friend Penelope (and she didn’t even know about the full blown affair!), in one of his published pieces, titled "I Married a Communist," and 3) Roth himself seems personally vindicative about his ex-wife Claire Bloom’s memoir, Leaving the Doll’s House, where she tells all about her many affairs with men, but takes the opportunity to especially skewer Roth for being abusive, angry, and so on, after decades of marriage to him. Many servings of revenge and betrayal and revenge and betrayal, round and round. I didn’t want to read this book when it came out because I felt that it sounded too acidic, too vicious, and I knew it was in part a response to Bloom’s book, which I had also read a lot of gossip about but hadn’t read, though I didn’t find it focused too much on these kinds of personal issues until much later in the novel, after much brilliant talk from Murray about Ira and the country during this time. When it gets to that last ¼ it seems a little out of control, angry, crazy, but before that, much of it is as good as American Pastoral. We learn much about what it is that might have attracted many people to Communism—anti-racism, economic inequities. ANGER at the American government. Sound familiar? Thousands of good people, many of them artists, had their lives destroyed in those years. The (lefty) arts were a target, Hollywood and Broadway. The book is also in part a book about teaching, learning, and mentoring as Nathan is mentored by his father, Ira, Murray, Leo Glucksman from The University of Chicago (on writing), Johnny O’Day, and many others, (including novelists he has read such as Mailer and Dostoevsky). Nathan reads Marx, and the political theory of the day, and all of these works also become teaching texts, such as the radical theory of Thomas Paine that set him on his way and drove a wedge between the radical Nathan, so admiring of Ira, and Nathan’s liberal father. This is a book about a boy and his male teachers. Most of Roth’s books are about boys, and talk. And sex. This one has less about sex, but it is here, and figures in centrally but not so specifically. Big talk, mostly talk, really, mostly, and most of it is pretty impressive. Great talkers, Murray and Ira, and as he says, Murray and Nathan and Roth himself seem to be terrific listeners to capture the fifties American Jewish idiom. A great portrait of Ira, this crazy Commie who married Eve and ruined his life, compromised his socialist ideals for what? Love? Conventional life? But it's a novel, not a tract, finally, it’s art, he doesn’t pick sides that much. I mean, he hates McCarthyism of course, but he looks at the whole range of perspectives on the mid-century American communist movement, strengths and weaknesses. As Mikhail Bakhtin says, a novel at its best can be a cultural forum. This is one of those novels. Great lines/references: * The idea of “boxing with books,” learning to argue through books. As critical thinking. A portrait of the male aggressive roots of the University of Chicago and Jewish intellectual and literary life, and argumentation culture. Words as weapons. It’s a little overwhelming at times, how great every character is at talking, and opining. --A great diatribe by a (capitalist) manufacturer, Goldstine, making fun of communism to Ira in a delightful way (and even if I am by far more commie than capitalist, I still loved it); a gun is pulled, in the process! “Make money, kid. Money’s not a lie. Money’s the democratic way to keep score.” --Great stuff on the Truman-Dewey-Wallace election and Ira’s rants about how the working class always votes against its own self-interests. Ira argues pretty persuasively for third party Commie Wallace. --Great and amazing stuff on the apolitical nature of the novel, not about making points, political or otherwise, but to ask questions, explore, create complicated characters, all of which Roth does. He maybe crosses the line by making it TOO personal with his revenge skewering of Bloom, though, in the end his intent is to explore all sides of a human being: “Not to erase the contradictions but to see where, within the contradiction, lies the tormented human being”—Glucksman, to Nathan What Murray says to Nathan about Ira is also true of Roth’s books: “That a man has a lot of sides that are unbelievable, is, I thought, the subject of your books. As a man, as your fiction tells it, everything is believable. Christ, yes, women, Ira’s women. A big social conscience and the wide sexual appetite to go with it. A Communist with a conscience and a Communist with a c____.” Roth, angrily unapologetic to the very last. So it’s well worth reading. I like and admire him; he’s maybe a little bit of an asshole, Roth; he doesn’t create sympathetic portraits of women, maybe bordering on misogynist. Eve, get it? And Eve’s witchily cast daughter, Sylphid? Ouch, but Eve is actually not so bad here until the end, and well, the language, the talk, the characters, the wide sweep of American history made personal tips the balance here to Roth “winning the day.”

  5. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “As an artist the nuance is your task. Your task is not to simplify. Even should you choose to write in the simplest way, a la Hemingway, the task remains to impart the nuance, to elucidate the complication, to imply the contradiction. Not to erase the contradiction, not to deny the contradiction, but to see where, within the contradiction, lies the tormented human being. To allow for the chaos, to let it in. You must let it in. Otherwise you produce propaganda, if not for a political party, a p “As an artist the nuance is your task. Your task is not to simplify. Even should you choose to write in the simplest way, a la Hemingway, the task remains to impart the nuance, to elucidate the complication, to imply the contradiction. Not to erase the contradiction, not to deny the contradiction, but to see where, within the contradiction, lies the tormented human being. To allow for the chaos, to let it in. You must let it in. Otherwise you produce propaganda, if not for a political party, a political movement, then stupid propaganda for life itself -- for life as it might itself prefer to be publicized.” ― Philip Roth, I Married a Communist One of my favorite Roth novels. I love how the book is structured and narrated; how it flows and how it ends. I always love Roth's prose, but his riffs on politics and art are amazing. I love the details -- that unless you are looking are easily missed: How Roth infuses Murray with the habits of a man who spent his life teaching precise language and cri - ti - cal thinking. How Roth salts Ira with the size, looks and frailty of Abraham Lincoln and Marfan syndrome. Sometimes, when I read a book or see a painting I hear music. Sometimes, when I hear music, I see colors dancing. For me, Roth novels read like some of Beethoven's more complex movements. Roth's every word, like Beethoven's every note is in the exact right place. Nothing more. Nothing less. Roth's story builds, and builds, and builds - - - until he releases his narrative into a dissonant and violent double fugue of story inside story - - - and then night, and quiet, and stars.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    I Married a Communist (The American Trilogy, #2), Philip Roth I Married a Communist is a Philip Roth novel concerning the rise and fall of Ira Ringold, known as "Iron Rinn." The story is narrated by Nathan Zuckerman, and is one of a trio of Zuckerman novels Roth wrote in the 1990s depicting the postwar history of Newark, New Jersey and its residents. Ira and his brother Murray serve as two immense influences on the school-age Zuckerman, and the story is told as a contemporary reminiscence betwee I Married a Communist (The American Trilogy, #2), Philip Roth I Married a Communist is a Philip Roth novel concerning the rise and fall of Ira Ringold, known as "Iron Rinn." The story is narrated by Nathan Zuckerman, and is one of a trio of Zuckerman novels Roth wrote in the 1990s depicting the postwar history of Newark, New Jersey and its residents. Ira and his brother Murray serve as two immense influences on the school-age Zuckerman, and the story is told as a contemporary reminiscence between Murray and Nathan on Ira's life. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیستم ماه آگوست سال 2015 میلادی عنوان: شوهر کمونیست من؛ نویسنده: ف‍ی‍ل‍ی‍پ‌ راث‌ ؛ مترجم: فریدون مجلسی؛ تهران : نیلوفر ، ‏‫1392؛ در 424 ص؛ شابک: 9789644485824؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 20 م شوهر کمونیست من؛ اثری سیاسی که بالاترین شمارگان فروش کتاب را کسب کرده است. «راث» در این اثر، رخداد تصفیه ی بزرگ کمیته فعالیتهای ضد آمریکایی کنگره ی آمریکا را، در نیمه دوم سده ی بیستم میلادی، مینگارد، و نشان میدهد که چگونه اخلاق مداریهای محافظه کارانه، در آن حرکت، که به رهبری «جو مک کارتی» و «ریچارد نیکسون» انجام شد، بهانه ای برای سرکوبگری شد. ا. شربیانی

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges. This often overlooked, underrated sequel to American Pastoral is a sleeper of a novel. It caught me by surprise. I struggled through the first fifty pages or so, through some dense politically tinged backstory told by a 90 year old guy named Murray Ringold. How interesting can this be, I asked myself. It's not nearly as sexy, and doesn't have the star quality of American Pastoral. I mean, it's largely a 90 year old's soliloquy, for goodnes And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges. This often overlooked, underrated sequel to American Pastoral is a sleeper of a novel. It caught me by surprise. I struggled through the first fifty pages or so, through some dense politically tinged backstory told by a 90 year old guy named Murray Ringold. How interesting can this be, I asked myself. It's not nearly as sexy, and doesn't have the star quality of American Pastoral. I mean, it's largely a 90 year old's soliloquy, for goodness' sake. It's cerebral and can be a bit exhausting to read. Set in the McCarthy era, the story centres on Ira Ringold, a rough, Abraham-Lincoln-doppelgänger radio star who gets blacklisted for his red-leaning politics... by his wife. It shares a few qualities with its Pulitzer winning predecessor, namely themes around Jewish shame and identity, as well as a troublesome daughter who is the catalyst for the wheels of tragedy. It is narrated by Nathan Zuckerman, who is a recurring character in all three novels in this trilogy. Even if it lacks sex appeal, the way the narrative unfolds shows Roth's fine skills as a storyteller. Zuckerman alternates his own memories of the time with the story as told to him by Murray Ringold, his aged, beloved highschool teacher. Ringold tells him about his brother Ira and everything that brought his downfall during this unique time of paranoia, suspicion and political idealism, dividing brothers, friends and spouses. Look, everything the Communists say about capitalism is true, and everything the capitalists say about Communism is true. The difference is, our system works because it's based on the truth about people's selfishness, and theirs doesn't because it's based on a fairy tale about people's brotherhood. It's such a crazy fairy tale they've got to take people and put them in Siberia in order to get them to believe it. But it's far more than a communist/anti-communist book. At the heart of this book, is a tale about human nature: betrayal and revenge. You control betrayal on one side and you wind up betraying somewhere else. Because it's not a static system. Because it's alive. Because everything that lives is in movement. Because purity is petrifaction. Because purity is a lie. Roth also writes some exquisite prose about literature and its relationship to life and politics. There is an entire section in which Nathan remembers Ringold reading a scene from Macbeth that gave me goosebumps. So many of his rants and musings shine with insight and intellect, elevating this story into gorgeousness. His words stopped me in my sometimes laboured tracks and made me sit and say, "wow." UPDATE: I learned from reading more informed reviews than my own that this book was a scathing reaction to the author's ex wife Claire Bloom's Leaving a Doll's House: A Memoir which painted Roth in not-so-favourable colours. Talk about betrayal - and then his own rage-filled revenge.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    With this, I've now completed Philip Roth's The American Trilogy. I liked this the least of them and, in fact, I think I liked it the least of all Roth's novels that I've read, although it's hard to compare works read fifty years ago. You'll get no plot summary from me, but structurally the novel is an old man telling the story of his brother (the eponymous Communist) to our author, disguised as always as Nathan Zuckerman, over the course of six long nights. There are segues though. Including thi With this, I've now completed Philip Roth's The American Trilogy. I liked this the least of them and, in fact, I think I liked it the least of all Roth's novels that I've read, although it's hard to compare works read fifty years ago. You'll get no plot summary from me, but structurally the novel is an old man telling the story of his brother (the eponymous Communist) to our author, disguised as always as Nathan Zuckerman, over the course of six long nights. There are segues though. Including this, from the old man to Zuckerman: That a man has a lot of sides that are unbelievable is, I thought, the subject of your books. About a man, as you tell it, everything is believable. I wrote this down. It sounded like a profundity, an author defining his own work. But I don't know. And there was more self-deprecating writ: When God made all this stuff in seven days, the birds, the rivers, the human beings, he didn't have ten minutes for literature. 'And then there will be literature. Some people will like it, some people will be obsessed by it, want to do it . . .' No. No. He did not say that. If you had asked God then, 'There will be plumbers?' 'Yes, there will be. Because they will have houses, they will need plumbers.' 'There will be doctors?' 'Yes. Because they will get sick, they will need doctors to give them some pills.' 'And literature?' 'Literature? What are you talking about? What use does it have? Where does it fit in? Please, I am creating a universe, not a university. No literature.' Oh, and it's election season, if you haven't noticed. And it was then, in the book. In this scene, the Communist (Ira Ringold) confronts his African-American maid (irony enough for you?): I found Ira in the basement kitchen, drying the dishes that were being washed in the double sink by Wondrous, the maid who'd served our dinner, and a girl about my age who turned out to be her daughter, Marva. When I walked in, Wondrous was saying to Ira, "I did not want to waste my vote, Mr. Ringold. I did not want to waste my precious vote." "Tell her," Ira said to me. "The woman won't believe me. I don't know why. You tell her about the Democratic Party. I don't know how a Negro woman can get it into her head that the Democratic Party is going to stop breaking its promises to the Negro race. I don't know who told her that or why she would believe him. Who told you, Wondrous? I didn't. Damn it, I told you six months ago--they are not going to bring an end to Jim Crow, your weak-kneed liberals of the Democratic Party. They are not and have never been partners of the Negro people! There was only one party in the election that a Negro could vote for, one party that fights for the underdog, one party dedicated to making the Negro in this country a first-class citizen. And it was not the Democratic Party of Harry Truman!" "I could not throw away my vote, Mr. Ringold. That's all I would be doing. Throwing it down the drain." There are maybe a dozen ways that passage sparks today. And isn't Wondrous wonderful?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    Of course it should not be too surprising to find out that your life story has included an event, something important, that you have known nothing about--your life story is in and of itself something that you know very little about. –Nathan Zuckerman If it weren’t for mistakes I would still be home sitting on the front stoop.—Nathan Zuckerman I Married a Communist is the follow-up to American Pastoral, in the middle of a trilogy, set partly in Newark and partly in Chicago, read mainly because I ha Of course it should not be too surprising to find out that your life story has included an event, something important, that you have known nothing about--your life story is in and of itself something that you know very little about. –Nathan Zuckerman If it weren’t for mistakes I would still be home sitting on the front stoop.—Nathan Zuckerman I Married a Communist is the follow-up to American Pastoral, in the middle of a trilogy, set partly in Newark and partly in Chicago, read mainly because I had in the last year read American Pastoral, but also because it is timely now, because of the McCarthy connections, the rising fascism of the fifties understand in the context of present events, the clown cars of revenge and betrayal and the irrelevance of facts. But there is also the wonderful muscular masculine passionate Roth language and the intense and carefully drawn characters. Not as good as American Pastoral, but it has flashes of that brilliance. This is a sort of read-aloud book because it is a story largely being told in soliloquy fashion by 90-year-old Murray about his blacklisted brother Ira to Nathan Zuckerman, a novelist stand-in for Roth himself. Murray is one of Nathan’s former English teachers, one who helped shape him as a writer. And as Nathan (Roth) says, reflecting on his career as writer, Occasionally now, looking back, I think of my life as one long speech I've been listening to. . . The book of my life is a book of voices. . . When I ask myself how I arrived at where I am, the answer surprises me: "Listening." . . . was I, from the beginning, just an ear in search of a word? –-Nathan Zuckerman This is one complex book, dealing with a particular period of history, post WWII, and getting at issues of betrayal and revenge on at least three basic levels; 1) nationally, as McCarthy and others in the early fifties in the USA blacklisted “Communists,” some of whom were actual Communist party members, though many of those accused were Jews, blacks, gay, and so on, liberals, that they didn’t like personally or politically. It was an ugly American moment, a chance for all of the country to turn in their neighbors to the House Un-American Committee for being “unpatriotically” critical of American policies and values; 2) central character Ira’s wife Eve turns him in to that committee, knowing he was once a sort of angry Communist sympathizer, after learning Ira has hit on his step-daughter Sylphid’s friend Penelope (and she didn’t even know about the full blown affair!), in a published piece called I Married a Communist, and 3) Roth himself, is vindicative about his ex-wife Claire Bloom’s memoir, Leaving the Doll’s House, where she tells all about her many affairs with men, but takes the opportunity to especially skewer Roth for being abusive, angry, and so on, after decades of marriage to him. Many servings of revenge and betrayal and revenge and betrayal, round and round. At one point Roth likens thesetales to Elizabethan tragedies, which I think is stretching it, especially when it comes to him and Bloom. I didn’t want to read this book when it came out because I felt that it sounded too acidic, too vicious, and I knew it was in part a response to Bloom’s book, which I read a lot about but didn’t read, though I didn’t find it focused too much on the personal issues until much later in the novel, after much brilliant talk from Murray about Ira and the country during this time. When it gets to that last ¼ it seems a little out of control, angry, crazy, but before that, much of it is as good as American Pastoral. We learn much about what it is that might have attracted many people to Communism—anti-racism, economic inequities. ANGER at the American government. Sound familiar? Thousands of good people, many of them artists, had their lives destroyed in those years. The (lefty) arts were a target, Hollywood and Broadway. The book is also in part a book about teaching, learning, and mentoring as Nathan is mentored by his father, Ira, Murray, Leo Glucksman from The University of Chicago (on writing), Johnny O’Day, and many others, including novelists such as Mailer and Dostoevsky. All his reading of Marx, and political theory of the day are teaching texts. The radical theory of Thomas Paine, that set him on his way and drove a wedge between the radical Nathan, so admiring of Ira, and Nathan’s liberal father. This is a book about a boy and his male teachers. Most of Roth’s books are about boys, and talk. And sex. This one has less about sex, but it is here, and figures in centrally but not so specifically. Big talk, all talk, really, mostly, and most of it is pretty impressive. Great talkers, Murray and Ira. A great portrait of Ira, this crazy Commie who married Eve and ruined his life, compromised his socialist ideals for what? Love? Conventional life? But it ‘s a novel, not a tract, finally, it’s art, he doesn’t pick sides that much. I mean, he hates McCarthyism of course, but he looks at the whole range of perspectives on the mid-century American communist movement. As Mikhail Bakhtin says, a novel at its best can be a cultural forum. This is one of those novels. Great lines/references: * The idea of “boxing with books,” learning to argue through books. As critical thinking. A portrait of the male aggressive roots of the University of Chicago and Jewish intellectual and literary life, and argumentation culture. Words as weapons. It’s a little overwhelming at times, how great every character is at talking, and opining. --A great diatribe by a (capitalist) manufacturer, Goldstine, making fun of communism to Ira in a delightful way (and even if I am by far more commie than capitalist, I still loved it); a gun is pulled, in the process! “Make money, kid. Money’s not a lie. Money’s the democratic way to keep score.” --Great stuff on the Truman-Dewey-Wallace election and Ira’s rants about how the working class always votes against its own self -interests. Ira argues pretty persuasively for third part Commie Wallace. --Great and amazing stuff on the apolitical nature of the novel, not about making points, political or otherwise, but to ask questions, explore, create complicated characters, all of which Roth does. He maybe crosses the line by making it TOO personal with his revenge skewering of Bloom, though, in the end: “Not to erase the contradictions but to see where, within the contradiction, lies the tormented human being.” –Glucksman, to Nathan SO it’s well worth reading. He’s maybe a little bit of an asshole, Roth; he doesn’t create sympathetic portraits of women, maybe bordering on misogynist. Eve, get it? And Eve’s witchily cast daughter, Sylphid? Ouch, but Eve is actually not so bad here until the end, and well, the language, the talk, the characters, the wide sweep of American history made personal tips the balance here to Roth “winning the day.” As Murray says to Nathan about Ira is as true of Roth’s books: “That a man has a lot of sides that are unbelievable, is, I thought, the subject of your books. As a man, as your fiction tells it, everything is believable. Christ, yes, women, Ira’s women. A big social conscience and the wide sexual appetite to go with it. A Communist with a conscience and a Communist with a c____.” Roth, angrily unapologetic to the very last.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Caterina

    This wonderful book reminded me that there was a vibrant radical movement in the States before the '60s. Ira Ringold is almost a tragical figure to me with the full Aristotelian meaning: he is exalted to a prominent figure of both the Communist Party and his professional circles. He is reliable, self-confident and above all, idealistic. He struggles to fit in his new life among the rich and famous of New York after marrying his super-famous co-protagonist, a persona who, I believe, represents th This wonderful book reminded me that there was a vibrant radical movement in the States before the '60s. Ira Ringold is almost a tragical figure to me with the full Aristotelian meaning: he is exalted to a prominent figure of both the Communist Party and his professional circles. He is reliable, self-confident and above all, idealistic. He struggles to fit in his new life among the rich and famous of New York after marrying his super-famous co-protagonist, a persona who, I believe, represents the apolitical bourgeoisie, until she decides to out him as a Communist. His fall is thunderous. Great depiction of the era of McCarthyism, the narration is put forward by two unforgettable characters, Ira's brother (and protector) and his pupil who befriended Ira while a teenager and, of course, admired him as a god. The prose is brave, with scattered funny episodes, ("She married me to carry her daughter's harp!"), a great contemporary novel.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    Some people have claimed that Philip Roth is being less than chivalrous here about his ex-wife, which if true is not to his credit. But the book is worth it just for the scene where the daughter of the best-selling bodice-ripping author reads aloud a passage from her mother's latest bonkbuster, loosely based on the story of Abelard and Heloise. Her frantic attempts not to giggle as she describes Abelard's proud manhood are somehow a definitive statement on a whole genre of literature. It's never Some people have claimed that Philip Roth is being less than chivalrous here about his ex-wife, which if true is not to his credit. But the book is worth it just for the scene where the daughter of the best-selling bodice-ripping author reads aloud a passage from her mother's latest bonkbuster, loosely based on the story of Abelard and Heloise. Her frantic attempts not to giggle as she describes Abelard's proud manhood are somehow a definitive statement on a whole genre of literature. It's never been done more concisely or viciously.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Usha

    I was ensnared by Roth and his characters and yet bored at the same time.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Read By RodKelly

    PERFECTION

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shane

    An Embarrassing Moment in American History or a Revenge Novel? This book was supposed to be the second of Roth’s American Trilogy and was supposed to have less to do with sex than with the historic and traumatic moments of twentieth century American culture. Reading about Roth’s troubled marriage to Claire Bloom that ended at the time, it is also hard to ignore that it was a revenge novel, for many of the incidents chronicled within bear direct resemblance to those in his crumbling relationship w An Embarrassing Moment in American History or a Revenge Novel? This book was supposed to be the second of Roth’s American Trilogy and was supposed to have less to do with sex than with the historic and traumatic moments of twentieth century American culture. Reading about Roth’s troubled marriage to Claire Bloom that ended at the time, it is also hard to ignore that it was a revenge novel, for many of the incidents chronicled within bear direct resemblance to those in his crumbling relationship with the British actress. In the novel, Nathan Zuckerman (Roth’s alter-ego) is being told the story of Ira Ringold, a Communist and a radio actor who married the fading Hollywood and Broadway star, Eve Frame, who had wound her way down to radio as she aged and lost star quality. The narrator is 90-year old Murray Ringold, Ira’s older brother and Nathan’s former English teacher, who is retelling the story forty years later. In the 1950’s when the story takes place, Eve has a live-in, grown up daughter, Sylphid, a harpist, who doesn’t get along with Ira, just as Bloom’s opera-singer daughter did not get along with Roth. The daughter is the irritant that brings down the marriage. After three years of bliss, several things go wrong in the Ringold marriage: Eve at 41 wants an abortion of the child Ira desperately wants her to have. Eve is opposed to the birth because Sylphid doesn’t want sibling competition. Ira rents an apartment nearby for Sylphid to move out to, but the girl throws a tantrum instead and pummels her mother; Ira has an affair with Sylphid’s friend Pamela; Pamela betrays him to Eve, saying he tried to seduce her; Eve writes a tell-all letter to the Communist Party. The clincher, in typical Roth’s libidinous humour, is when Ira's masseur gets drunk and challenges Eve to a contest to see who sucks off Ira the best. Ira has a hair trigger temper that first got him into trouble as a teenager, sending him into a drifter’s existence of working odd jobs among the downtrodden, especially in the mines of Zinctown, hence his awakening to Communism. After being discharged from the army following WWII, he becomes a party member and plays Abraham Lincoln on radio, using his popularity to promote his politics. Meeting Eve gives him a taste of bourgeoise life, which he likes, and this is his undoing. When he is unmasked as a Communist, all his pals in Zinctown abandon him; O’Day, Ira’s Communist mentor, condemns him with, “He’s a fake and he’s a dope and he’s a traitor. Betrayed his revolutionary comrades and betrayed the working class. Sold out. Bought off. Totally the creature of the bourgeoisie. Seduced by fame and money and wealth and power. And pussy, fancy Hollywood pussy.” And why was he betrayed? Because Eve writes a tell-all book titled I Married a Communist about her crumbling marriage, insinuating that Ira married her to gain access to the American movie industry and convert it to Communism. What follows is a very public spat that wrecks both their lives emotionally and professionally. Art imitates life here. This is a very told story, for Murray is the neurotic narrator for the most part. I’m not a fan of this form and yet Roth is able to conjure up nuance, anger, freneticism, drama and other emotional states into the narration. I found Murray's sharpness of memory and wit at age 90 a bit hard to swallow. However, Murray provides Roth with a platform from which to reclaim his political views – on McCarthy, Nixon and others. Mixed in with the Commie bashing is Roth’s other pet whipping boy: upper class Jews who hate their lower class brethren, and this is embodied in Eve. “It was a sickness,” Murray says, “that aversion she had for the Jew who was insufficiently disguised. She could go along parallel to life for a long time. Not in life—parallel to life. She could be quite convincing in that ultracivilized, ladylike role she’d chosen. The soft voice. The precise location.” This book fills a void about a dark period which America prefers not to talk about, when lives were destroyed by snitches and grudges were held, and when politics drove a sharp distinction between “us and them.” As Murray says, “In human society, thinking’s the greatest transgression of all. Cri-ti-cal think-ing—there is the ultimate subversion.” This period seems to be playing back again in the partisanized landscape that is America today. However, I felt the novel’s power was undermined by Roth choosing to throw in his own spousal vendetta in with that of the McCarthyists going after the Commies.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ned

    Being the next after American Pastoral, the first Roth novel for me, and still my favorite, I enjoyed this one a great deal. It probably helps that the protagonist, Nathan Zuckerman, is about my current age. But I’ve always enjoyed the conversational reminiscing of the nonagenarian teacher (Murray Ringold) and the student. The setting is Newark, Roth’s home turf, where he re-creates a place and time through his art that is more meaningful (to me) than any history book. I try to explain to my fri Being the next after American Pastoral, the first Roth novel for me, and still my favorite, I enjoyed this one a great deal. It probably helps that the protagonist, Nathan Zuckerman, is about my current age. But I’ve always enjoyed the conversational reminiscing of the nonagenarian teacher (Murray Ringold) and the student. The setting is Newark, Roth’s home turf, where he re-creates a place and time through his art that is more meaningful (to me) than any history book. I try to explain to my friends that fiction is more “real” than history, as it captures the true essence of mankind in his environs, well beyond factoids and simple interviews. Usually I don’t convince, but their loss. This novel also describes what is like to be American, as a Jew, where the characters struggle to shake off their immigrant roots and become assimilated. It is also a story of two brothers (I have three), where Murray advises and consults the younger Ira through his tribulations, ascent to fame and, inevitably, catastrophe. Finally, this is about the McCarthy era, in the 1950s, and the best expose I’ve read about how it played out and how it actually impacted lives. Having grown up largely after the red scare, I do recall its remnants as a child and still today see the body politic still actively debating the soviet experiment with communism and its stigma in the US. What I found interesting is the reaction to the Soviets is more fear of oppression and the dogma is still strong that Marxism leads to totalitarianism and loss of liberty. But I digress…. Mainly this is a tale about people, what it is like to grow up without parents in 1950s urban America. The history and characters are richly detailed, and we have this special author who has gifted that to us forever. For me, one of Roth’s most special talents is his ability to create characters that are authentic and of great depth. His insights into human nature teach me about human beings in a way I would not conceive. He reveals the tragedy in dramatic fashion, as we learn throughout the story, in surprising and exciting ways. I always have enjoyed tragedy in literature as it helps me deal with it in life, and this book is the best of its kind. I started marking it on page 3, always a good sign. Back when I read American Pastoral I was in my mid forties, now that I’m late 50s, I enjoyed picking up from my younger self. I recall the place and time back then, and will remember this stage in life in the future, when I pick up again on The Human Stain. p. 4, Nathan coming upon his most memorable teacher, now in his 90s: “..the past turned up this time, in the shape of a very old man…who still couldn’t waste his time talking other than to a serious point. A palpable obstinacy lent his personality its flinty fullness, and this despite time’s radical pruning of his old athletic physique….I thought, there it is- human life. There is endurance.” p. 25, the young Murray discovering Thomas Paine, and depicted in a way you won’t find in history books: “…savagely single-minded and unsociable, and epic, folkloric belligerent- unkempt, dirty, wearing a beggar’s clothes, bearing a musket in the unruly streets of wartime Philadelphia, a bitter, caustic man, often drunk, frequenting brothels, hunted by assassins, and friendless. He did it alone….demanding…the transformation of society..” p. 47, the tragic character Ira, deconstructing racism in his explosive style: “At first Ira tried to reason…And you aren’t only anti-Negro. You’re anti-labor, you’re anti-liberal, and you’re anti-brains. You anti every goddamn thing that’s in your interest. How can people give their three or four years to the army, see friends die, get wounded, have their lives disrupted, and yet not know why it happened and what it’s all about? All you know is that Hitler started something. All you know is that the draft board got you. You know what I say? You guys would duplicate the very actions of the Germans if you were in their place. It might take a little longer because of the democratic element in our society, but eventually we would be completely fascist, dictator and all, because of people spouting ht shit you guys spout The discrimination of the top officers who run this port is bad enough, but you people, from poor families, guys without two nickels to rub together, guys who are nothing but fodder for the assembly line, for the sweatshop, for the coal mines, who the system pisses on- low wages, high prices, astronomical profits – and your turn out to be a bunch of vociferous, bigoted Red-baiting bastards who done’ know…” p. 50, Ira’s escape cabin in the woods where the young Nathan first spends time with him: “Ira retreated…not so much close to nature as close to the bone, to live life in the raw…talking to the local dairy farmers and the old zinc miners, whom he tried to get to understand that they were being screwed by the system. He had a fireplace out there where he liked to cook his hot dogs and beans over the coals, even to brew his coffee, all so as to remind himself after he’d become…a bit enlarded with money and fame, that he as nothing more than a ‘working stiff’….he used to say, ‘helps keep me in practice being poor. Just in case.’” p. 72, more on Ira in the woods, reminds me of Hesse’s Siddhartha, and certainly autobiographical for Roth himself, I find myself kindred with the author: “..the place where you disrobe, molt it all, the uniforms you’ve worn and the costumes you’ve gotten into..The aging man leaves and goes into the woods- Eastern philosophical thought abounds with the motif, Taoist thought, Hindu thought, Chinese thought. The ‘forest dweller’, the last stage on life’s way….he enters into competition with death, drawn down into austerity, the final business.” p. 103, Roth must a been a political tour-de-force in conversation: “…Roosevelt became the president, and the kind of capitalism that sent me down to the Communist Party office began to get an overhaul the likes of which this country had never seen. A great man saved this country’s capitalism fromt eh capitalists and saved patriotic people like me from Communism.” p. 181, Roth captures the essence of the ideologue, who get’s in too deep: “..Ira belonged to the Communist Party heart and soul. Ira obeyed every 180 degree shift of poicy. Ira swallowed the dialectical justification for Stalin’s every villainy. He managed to squelch his doubts and convince himself that his obedience…was helping to build a just and equitable society in America. Hi sself-conception was of being virtuous. Hard to believe that a man who put so much stock in his freedom could let that dogmatizing conrol his thinking.” p. 274, Roth always fluent in anti-Semitism sources and underbelly: “And it didn’t hurt to name all the other Jewish Bolsheviks affiliated with Ira’s show. The Cold War paranoia had latent anti-Semitism as one of its sources, and so, under the moral guidance of the Grants- who themselves loved the ubiquitous troublemaking left-wing Jew just about as much as Richard Nixon did- Eve could transform a personal prejudice into a political weapon by confirming for Gentile America that, in New York as in Hollywood, in radio as in movies, the Communist under every rock was, nine times out of ten, a Jew to boot.” p. 284, brilliantly he describes how the phenomenon was publicized, trivialized, and neatly yet falsely condensed to a narrative, completely relevant to today’s sensations: “Once the human tragedy has been completed, it gets turned over to the journalists to banalize into entertainment. …I think of the McCarthy era as inaugurating the postwar triumph of gossip… McCarthy was never in the Communist business; if nobody else knew that, he did. The show-trial aspect of McCarthy’s patriotic crusade was merely its theatrical form. Having cameras view it just gave it the false authenticity of real life. McCarthy understood better than any American politician before him that people whose job was to legislate could do far better for themselves by performing; McCarthy understood the entertainment value of disgrace and how to feed the pleasures of paranoia. He took us back to our origins, back to the seventeenth century and the stocks.”

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cathal Kenneally

    Excellent. I've only recently discovered this writer but I want to read more! It's a fantastic read. One the best cold war novels I've read for years. Imagine being accused of being a Communist? What changes it will have on your life. Ostracized by the community. Mistrusted by your nearest and dearest. Then when you're name is cleared , there's still the nagging doubts and suspicions. Life will never be the same again. Philip Roth is a genius Excellent. I've only recently discovered this writer but I want to read more! It's a fantastic read. One the best cold war novels I've read for years. Imagine being accused of being a Communist? What changes it will have on your life. Ostracized by the community. Mistrusted by your nearest and dearest. Then when you're name is cleared , there's still the nagging doubts and suspicions. Life will never be the same again. Philip Roth is a genius

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    Powerful account of the Red Scare, told through the rise and fall of a tough blue collar radio star from New Jersey. Roth's political writing has never been sharper, but the intimate scenes fall flat and the family drama is often unintentionally funny. Some minor issues I had with the overall work: 1.) Ira the hero of the book is supposed to be a totally self-educated, blue collar guy who gets radicalized as a GI in World War II and then becomes famous by performing Lincoln's best known speeches a Powerful account of the Red Scare, told through the rise and fall of a tough blue collar radio star from New Jersey. Roth's political writing has never been sharper, but the intimate scenes fall flat and the family drama is often unintentionally funny. Some minor issues I had with the overall work: 1.) Ira the hero of the book is supposed to be a totally self-educated, blue collar guy who gets radicalized as a GI in World War II and then becomes famous by performing Lincoln's best known speeches at leftist rallies, school programs, and ultimately on the radio. The question I have is simple. What does Ira actually learn from Lincoln? Why are none of Lincoln's speeches ever quoted? Why doesn't Ira ever reflect on the words he spouts over and over and what they mean? Throughout the book we're told he's "channeling" Lincoln, in effect, that Lincoln's personal decency and unselfish crusade for freedom is his. But Lincoln was a very patient man, who never lost his temper, who always looked for common ground, who tried to reason with his enemies. Ira is a loudmouth bully who reacts to every challenge with spittle-spraying fury and has no capacity for humor, empathy, or even basic common sense. Roth either knows nothing about Lincoln's public demeanor and his personal philosophy and failed to do even the most basic research, (like reading the speeches) or else (just possibly) he's taking a very subtle dig at the old-time communists he's pretending to admire. Which is more likely? 2.) Morris (or was it Murray?) is Ira's brother, a stand-up guy who taught high school English in the public schools of Newark for many years, was unfairly blacklisted (and reduced to selling vacuum cleaners) then came back and taught heroically once more. AND he's a World War II veteran, AND his poor crippled wife was horribly murdered by mindless black street thugs in the horrible horrible Sixties. In other words, this is Philip Roth's idea of a real mensch. Okay. Fine. But why does his mensch-hood have to depend on his bragging about how he's "an angry Jew?" And why does he have to demonstrate this anger by yelling at the reader for five pages at the end about how much he hated watching Nixon's funeral on TV? This is heroic why exactly? Granted Nixon was a crook, but then Old Newark was full of crooks. And you should hear Morris wax poetic about the good old days when jolly Italian Mobsters ruled the First Ward! These were not crooks? Why sentimentalize Longy Zwillman and not Nixon? And why pretend that Morris' anger is at Nixon and not the home boys who killed his wife? Roth lets the story drop right where it gets interesting -- where the so-called leftist Jew is just on the point of admitting that he really hated the blacks all along. (We never do see him dealing with his black students face to face. We're just told he did his best.) And of course, there's an even more dangerous irony here, since the rage that drove the blacks to burn Newark down in the Sixties is a rage Philip Roth absolutely refuses to confront. Jewish anger he can understand. Anyone else's problems, you should forget it! 3.) Frailty, thy name is Eve Frame! Rugged Ira's downfall comes in the form of an alluring, very classy actress from the movies whom he meets on his radio show. The rumor is that Philip Roth was getting revenge on his ex-wife, Claire Bloom. He sure does give Eve a bad time. He makes her weak, timid, cowardly, and fills her with (his own) Jewish self-loathing. And he gives her a daughter who's sort of monstrous and overweight and mean. The irony here is that none of this was necessary. If rugged, simple soldier Ira had really fallen for a genuinely appealing woman, and if the allure of her regal elegance and charm was made palpable to the reader, then the tragedy of his betrayal of the party (and their betrayal of him) would have been a hundred times more insightful, not to mention moving and tragic. It could have been Antony and Cleopatra all over again, with Morris as Enobarbus and young Nathan Zuckerman as Octavian. But then, as Morris pretty much points out at one point, Philip Roth is not Shakespeare.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    This is the second book in the loosely-named American Trilogy and again features Roth's alter ego Nathan Zuckerman, who narrates or is told the majority of the story. Starting when Nathan is 14, he has a literature teacher called Murray Ringold, who he admires. Through Murray, Nathan meets, and is taken under the wing of, his younger brother Ira who started off as a ditch-digger in the 1930s and progressed to being a radio star in the 1940s and married to a Hollywood starlet, Eve Frame. But all This is the second book in the loosely-named American Trilogy and again features Roth's alter ego Nathan Zuckerman, who narrates or is told the majority of the story. Starting when Nathan is 14, he has a literature teacher called Murray Ringold, who he admires. Through Murray, Nathan meets, and is taken under the wing of, his younger brother Ira who started off as a ditch-digger in the 1930s and progressed to being a radio star in the 1940s and married to a Hollywood starlet, Eve Frame. But all falls apart for Ira (and indeed Murray and even Nathan) as the Cold War and the resultant anti-communist phobia rips through the entertainment industry and society in general - and Eve publishes a damning biography of her time with Ira, titled 'I Married a Communist'.... Later in his life, Nathan meets Murray, now in his 90's, and over a series of evenings Murray tells Nathan the full story of Ira's life, marriage and belief systems, some of which was apparent to Nathan when he was under Ira's tutelage and much of which was not. The book is a damning expose of life in America through the period of 1930s-1950s, particularly from the point of view of labour relations and the demonising of any attempts to improve working conditions as the actions of Communist agitators rather than people with a genuine concern for the often horrendous working conditions of mine and factory employees. I have to admit that I didn't enjoy this one as much as American Pastoral. Interestingly, in a past edition of The Guardian Review, an article about Roth in the aftermath of his death summarises many of his books but this one only gets a passing mention. I was certainly glad to finish it and move on to something else but it will not deter me from reading other of the author's work as there are usually several nuggets of pure inspiration when you pan through his books that make it all worthwhile - 6.5/10.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David

    After reading American Pastoral and hearing this was the title of the second book in the American Trilogy, I couldn't wait to read it. Plus with Philip Roth at the helm I was ready for a great read. This book deals with the post WW2 America and deals with free speech. What does it mean to live in the land of liberty when the ruling party became paranoid about communism? How can America be afraid of Korean communists coming to destroy America 6,000 miles away? How can a small number of people topp After reading American Pastoral and hearing this was the title of the second book in the American Trilogy, I couldn't wait to read it. Plus with Philip Roth at the helm I was ready for a great read. This book deals with the post WW2 America and deals with free speech. What does it mean to live in the land of liberty when the ruling party became paranoid about communism? How can America be afraid of Korean communists coming to destroy America 6,000 miles away? How can a small number of people topple America with the "red menace"? Why did the communist threat overwhelm a country when issues of racism towards blacks seems to be more pressing? How can you have free speech (or thought) if you go against the grain. What does it mean when you are stripped of your job because of your thoughts, your connections and ties to a party during the McCarthy era? The realism of this story brings out so many questions. Why did parts of this book sound like a page from today? Weirdly there was a Mueller in the book investigating the communists and there is a Mueller today investigating the Russians connections. Weird. The main hero, left-thinking Ira Ringold becomes a radio star and marries Eve Frame, a big name actress. They have it all and yet their life falls under scrutiny after Ira's talk gets him in hot water. Add in a daughter from a previous marriage who has issues with her mother. Add in Ira's brother Murray, who also loses his teaching job just knowing Ira. And all told through Nathan Zuckerman's long interview with Murray. A very telling story which shows the long link of people affected by McCarthyism. So much to ponder. So much to just get annoyed with. To be honest, there were parts that really sung, but parts that seemed to be a little bogged down in the minutia of his words. The opening and the ending are excellent but a large chunk of the mid section were borderline excessive. Maybe it was me but it seemed Roth was trying to hammer it in. Once again, like in American Pastoral, there is a young daughter who has a vile attitude towards the parents and I just wanted something else. Yet these two books add to the complexity of America, good or bad. I think Roth favours more the bad. I am giving it a strong 3.5 but it falls short of a 4. However I am still looking forwards to The Human Stain, to complete the trilogy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I really liked this book. I am an aspiring leftist (you know what I mean) and a red sympathizer and this book is a buildungsroman about both. As well as the social forces (paranoia, tabloid, racism) that threaten to pull people under. it also does an excellent job of capturing late american adolsecnce that feels one way but sees every which way, if that makes any sense. Also does a pretty respectable job of allegorizing the attributes that make socialism/communism attractive as well as weak and d I really liked this book. I am an aspiring leftist (you know what I mean) and a red sympathizer and this book is a buildungsroman about both. As well as the social forces (paranoia, tabloid, racism) that threaten to pull people under. it also does an excellent job of capturing late american adolsecnce that feels one way but sees every which way, if that makes any sense. Also does a pretty respectable job of allegorizing the attributes that make socialism/communism attractive as well as weak and dangerous. Too much power than it knows what to do with, too much idealism to be practical. *** And, like an assbag, I totally happened upon this quote and didn't recognize it at all: "Art as a weapon?” he said to me, the word “weapon” rich with contempt and itself a weapon. “Art as taking the right stand on everything? Art as the advocate of good things? Who taught you all this? Who taught you art is slogans? Who taught you art is in the service of 'the people'? Art is in the service of art—otherwise there is no art worthy of anyone's attention. What is the motive for writing serious literature, Mr. Zuckerman? To disarm the enemies of price control? The motive for writing serious literature is writing serious literature. You want to rebel against society? I'll tell you how to do it—write well. You want to embrace a lost cause? Then don't fight in behalf of the laboring class. They're going to make out fine. They're going to fill up on Plymouths to their heart's content. The workingman will conquer us all—out of his mindlessness will flow the slop that is this philistine country's cultural destiny. We'll soon have in this country something far worse than the government of the peasants and the workers—we will have the culture of the peasants and the workers. You want a lost cause to fight for? Then fight for the word. Not the high-flown word, not the inspiring word, not the pro-this and anti-that word, not the word that advertises to the respectable that you are a wonderful, admirable, compassionate person on the side of the downtrodden and the oppressed. No, for the word that tells the literate few condemned to live in America that you are on the side of the word. This play of yours is crap. It's awful. It's infuriating. It is crude, primitive, simple-minded, propagandistic crap. It blurs the world with words. And it reeks to high heaven of your virtue. Nothing has a more sinister effect on art than an artist's desire to prove that he's good. The terrible temptation of idealism! You must achieve mastery over your idealism, over your virtue as well as over your vice, aesthetic mastery over everything that drives you to write in the first place—your outrage, your politics, your grief, your love! Start preaching and taking positions, start seeing you own perspective as superior, and you're worthless as an artist, worthless and ludicrous. Why do you write these proclamations? Because you look around and you're 'shocked'? Because you look around and you're 'moved'? People give in too easily and fake their feelings. They want to have feelings right away, and so 'shocked' and 'moved' are the easiest. The stupidest. Except for the rare case, Mr. Zuckerman, shock is always fake. Proclamations. Art has no use for proclamations! Get your loveable shit out of this office, please.” I wouldn't necessarily say that I agree with all of it, but this is bracing, to say the least, and some of it I agree with 100% (that you are on the side of the word...) Maybe it's my stubborn, severe, Puritan blood. I dunno....

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sentimental Surrealist

    Maybe retrospect will make me feel more kindly toward this one: from the description of Nixon's funeral on into the end, Roth touches on an energy, a tension, an uncertainty that everything that came before came up short in. Suddenly, Murray and Zuckerman's relationship becomes real; suddenly, the story takes on a life outside of itself, a significance that's then subverted into beautifully rendered insignificance; suddenly, Roth's expanded the double-narrative into a triple-narrative, taking ad Maybe retrospect will make me feel more kindly toward this one: from the description of Nixon's funeral on into the end, Roth touches on an energy, a tension, an uncertainty that everything that came before came up short in. Suddenly, Murray and Zuckerman's relationship becomes real; suddenly, the story takes on a life outside of itself, a significance that's then subverted into beautifully rendered insignificance; suddenly, Roth's expanded the double-narrative into a triple-narrative, taking advantage of the fact that this novel is one character telling a story about another. Throughout the rest, I was convinced there was too much retrospect here, convinced all the important conflict had happened decades in the past, which left the story feeling like a couple of guys reminiscing about an old buddy, which can be nice and all, but what are the stakes of that? Roth answers my question with the last chapter, and with the last few pages of the second-to-last chapter, but I will insist that he could've done more with the Zuckerman/Murray thing. So that's the American trilogy, is it? I'm more sold on Roth than when I read Portnoy's Complaint, but I can't help the feeling that the Human Stain's haunted 'nam vet Lester was by far the most compelling character in the trilogy, despite his ultimate side-character status. Lot of people made their way to the top and fell back down to the bottom over the course of these three novels, and yet I wonder what it would've done for 'em if he'd focused on a few more people who hadn't made their way to the top or the bottom, who wrestled with identity in the same way as Swede and Ira and Coleman, but because the identity was forced on them. Just a thought. The misogyny in this book is gruesome, easily eclipsing Portnoy's Complaint, but I can't say that surprises me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Adam Dalva

    A high 3, could have been a 4 if it had been culled just a touch - there's a tendency toward repetitiveness here that can get frustrating. I think this book is overlooked to some extent, it has, I think, the most emotional and earnest Zuckerman yet, and when the engine of the plot finally kicks in with about 50 pages to go it gets very good. I wonder if the scandal around the real-life parallels with Roth's marriage distracted people from how good the book is on occasion. That said, it has a str A high 3, could have been a 4 if it had been culled just a touch - there's a tendency toward repetitiveness here that can get frustrating. I think this book is overlooked to some extent, it has, I think, the most emotional and earnest Zuckerman yet, and when the engine of the plot finally kicks in with about 50 pages to go it gets very good. I wonder if the scandal around the real-life parallels with Roth's marriage distracted people from how good the book is on occasion. That said, it has a strange mixture of narrative hand-holding (atypical in the Zuckerman books) and ranting RE: communism that makes it hard to completely endorse it. I'll remember it more than most of the 3s - I'll remember the sweetness and love in the depiction of Murray, and I'll remember the ending.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Robson

    Although this is an interesting book, I do feel it is not up to the standard of The Human Stain. The incredible power of that book was missing from this one. Yet I loved the characterisation of Hollywood starlet and radio star Eve Frame. It was mesmerising. What a disaster of a woman, brilliantly portrayed!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ami

    ~2.5-3 stars

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    There's a quote in this book contrasting politics ("the great generalizer") with literature ("the particularizer") and while this book has a great many memorable characters in it, the overall feel is that these particular fabrications run dangerously close to serving as pawns in a generalized, polemical debate. Roth gives us Ira Ringold firmly planted in the McCarthy era to explore so much through a deeply flawed character, but much of it is told secondhand in ways where other characters heavily There's a quote in this book contrasting politics ("the great generalizer") with literature ("the particularizer") and while this book has a great many memorable characters in it, the overall feel is that these particular fabrications run dangerously close to serving as pawns in a generalized, polemical debate. Roth gives us Ira Ringold firmly planted in the McCarthy era to explore so much through a deeply flawed character, but much of it is told secondhand in ways where other characters heavily summarize, armchair psychoanalyze, and explain Ira to the reader. Roth does a wonderful job of capturing and rooting a particular time and place in American history. And a three-star Roth is pretty much a 4-star anybody-else, but given my fondness for the other two books in this trilogy, this one felt a bit too pedantic. --------------------------------------- WORDS I LOOKED UP BUT PROBABLY WON'T USE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC chiropodist | schmattas | picayune | deprofanation | minatory | rostrum

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    Downfall... This is the story of Ira Ringold, a Jew from Newark who becomes a big star on radio and then is destroyed in the period of the McCarthy witch-hunts. This is the story of a failed marriage; of toxic family relationships; of male adolescence and male role models and masculinity; of morality and its lack; of ageing; of literature; of anti-Semitism; of politics; of fanaticism; of hypocrisy; of betrayal. This is the story of a particular America in a particular time and place; a story that Downfall... This is the story of Ira Ringold, a Jew from Newark who becomes a big star on radio and then is destroyed in the period of the McCarthy witch-hunts. This is the story of a failed marriage; of toxic family relationships; of male adolescence and male role models and masculinity; of morality and its lack; of ageing; of literature; of anti-Semitism; of politics; of fanaticism; of hypocrisy; of betrayal. This is the story of a particular America in a particular time and place; a story that presages the America of today. I Married a Communist is the second volume of what is known as Roth’s American Trilogy, preceded by American Pastoral, which I declared to be The Great American Novel, and followed by The Human Stain. They are not a trilogy in the sense that the word tends to be used today – each of these stands complete on its own, connected only in the sense that the three together are Roth’s attempt to make sense of America at the end of the 20th century by looking back over the decades of the mid-century. In each the story is narrated by Nathan Zuckerman, a barely disguised alter-ego of Roth himself. When Murray Ringold, once Nathan’s English teacher and later friend, and now an old man, attends a summer school at the university where Zuckerman, himself now a man in his 60s, teaches, they spend the evenings together, and over the course of the week Murray tells Zuckerman the story of his younger brother, Ira. Nathan knew Ira too once, when Nathan was young and impressionable and Ira was at his peak as a star and as a man. Ira was a formative influence on the young boy, a second father figure, and for a time he was the most important person in Nathan’s life. But as Nathan grew up he grew away from Ira, so although he knew in broad outline what had happened to him, this is the first time he has heard Ira’s later story in detail. As Murray fills in the gaps of Ira’s earlier and later life, Zuckerman also tells the reader of the man he knew, looking back with the eyes of age and experience and reassessing his youthful judgement of the man. The story is simple and we are told near the beginning how Ira’s downfall came about. At the height of his stardom he married Eve Frame, once a Hollywood starlet and now also a radio star. The marriage was disastrous, for which Ira placed the blame squarely on Eve’s grown-up daughter Sylphid and on Eve’s weakness in letting Sylphid domineer over her. Eve may have felt that Ira’s penchant for infidelity had something to do with it, though. When Ira leaves her, Eve publishes a memoir of their marriage in which she claims he is a communist taking orders from the Kremlin and betraying America. In the McCarthy era, this accusation alone is enough to destroy Ira’s career. Part of what Murray will tell Nathan is how Ira reacted to his downfall and how the rest of his life played out. But the story is to a large extent a vehicle for Zuckerman/Roth to dissect the various characters and the wider society. The question is not whether Ira was a communist – we know that he was – but why. He too, as Nathan with him, was influenced by an older man that he loved as a friend and mentor. But there’s a feeling that to him being a communist was an ego thing – something that separated him from the common herd, that allowed him to feel superior. Yes, he cared about those in society who were disadvantaged, but he also enjoyed the luxury and celebrity that came with his marriage to Eve even as he ranted against her and her friends. Nathan’s outgrowing of him is beautifully observed – as Nathan matures and goes off to college where he spends time with really educated and intelligent men, Ira diminishes in his eyes. Perhaps Ira’s tragedy is that he never outgrew his own mentor. It has been claimed that Ira’s marriage to Eve is based on Roth’s own failed marriage to Claire Bloom, and that the book is a vicious response to Bloom’s memoirs in which she painted an unflattering picture of Roth. This may be so, but I don’t think it matters – it works at a literary level and in truth the reader – this reader, anyway – sympathises slightly more with Eve than with Ira, although both are weak and selfish. Through Eve, Roth goes into the question of Jewish self-hate – anti-Semitism practised by Jews themselves. I found this aspect fascinating – it was something I’d never considered before. Roth shows how this is a response to society’s anti-Semitism, where some Jews find it easier to try to hide their identity and join in rather than spend a lifetime battling prejudice. It made me think of African Americans “passing”, which in fact is the subject of The Human Stain. Overall, this book doesn’t have quite the power or broad scope of American Pastoral. In some ways it feels more personal, as if it reflects Roth’s own life more intimately. The depiction of Nathan’s journey through adolescence feels lived – some at least of these reflections surely arise from Roth’s experiences as much as his alter-ego’s. Although Ira is the main focus, Zuckerman is very much central too, which isn’t really the case in American Pastoral. The young Nathan is an aspiring writer, allowing Roth to digress into his formative literary experiences, while the older Zuckerman is rather reclusive – an enigma left unsolved. It’s always dangerous to make direct links between fictional characters and their creators, but I think it’s probably safe to assume that the literary aspects of Nathan’s development at least are drawn from Roth’s own, and they are full of interest and insight. I came away from it wishing that Murray Ringold, or Zuckerman, or Roth, had been my English teacher. And I came away from the book wishing that Roth were here today to make sense for us of what has happened to bring America to its current state. This book goes some way to that, showing already the faultlines that have now become a gaping chasm into which the moderate centre seems to have fallen. A great writer, and an excellent book. It may not be The Great American Novel, but it’s certainly a great American novel. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kris Veldhuizen

    'I Married a Communist' is a challenging read ... in a good way. The story is plotted out in a non-linear fashion, which really forces the reader to stay focused, especially when it comes to the multiple layers of characterization of different characters. The non-conventional plotting is not just a gimmick either, but rather an essential and integral part of the story. The book is firmly rooted in history, and even though it is not essential to *know* the time period, a bit of background knowled 'I Married a Communist' is a challenging read ... in a good way. The story is plotted out in a non-linear fashion, which really forces the reader to stay focused, especially when it comes to the multiple layers of characterization of different characters. The non-conventional plotting is not just a gimmick either, but rather an essential and integral part of the story. The book is firmly rooted in history, and even though it is not essential to *know* the time period, a bit of background knowledge on the McCarthy era especially goes a long way in enriching an already intense and turbulent story. A few of the main themes of the book include the dangers and pitfalls of idealism, obsession, dependency, and revenge, some of which are beautifully illustrated by what a friend of mine described as "golden nuggets" of literary comparison to classical literary works from, amongst others, Shakespeare and Machiavelli. All in all, 'I Married a Communist' is definitely worth reading. Easy? No. Rewarding? Absolutely.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pavel

    - I don't think this is a novel about communism, maccarthism and whatever; - Obviously best pages of this book are those about Ira family: him and Sylphid and Eve... I think those are the reason why this book was written in the first place. Perhaps some Roth's personal life and revenge was involved - I don't know and really don't want to. But as a piece of literature this is the part of the book which is interesting. - Ira is btw female Russian name (not only irish party :) - The book is about how - I don't think this is a novel about communism, maccarthism and whatever; - Obviously best pages of this book are those about Ira family: him and Sylphid and Eve... I think those are the reason why this book was written in the first place. Perhaps some Roth's personal life and revenge was involved - I don't know and really don't want to. But as a piece of literature this is the part of the book which is interesting. - Ira is btw female Russian name (not only irish party :) - The book is about how people's lives are getting ruined. Literally every character's life in this book is ruined by some way. By idealism, by treason, by ignorance, by guile, by something... -And the answer why is on the last 4 pages - because this is what life is.

  29. 4 out of 5

    D

    A memorable Nathan Zuckerman story. As a youth, he befriends the larger-than-life communist brother of his English teacher who is married to a movie star (just before and during the McCarthy madness). It made me wonder if, perhaps, the relative strength of the US communists/stalinists then might be responsible for the fact that social democracy never caught on in the US (until Bernie Sanders ;).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dominika

    Meh. Some parts were humorous and this was an amusing character story, but I guess I need a break from this kind of thing (white male author pop fiction, where I think that Roth does a better job than most).

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...